Sunday, February 12, 2012

Don't Go There

By Allen White

Then the Pharisees went out and laid plans to trap him in his words. They sent their disciples to him along with the Herodians. “Teacher,” they said, “we know that you are a man of integrity and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. You aren’t swayed by others, because you pay no attention to who they are. Tell us then, what is your opinion? Is it right to pay the imperial tax to Caesar or not?”

But Jesus, knowing their evil intent, said, “You hypocrites, why are you trying to trap me? Show me the coin used for paying the tax.” They brought him a denarius, and he asked them, “Whose image is this? And whose inscription?”

 “Caesar’s,” they replied.

Then he said to them, “So give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”

When they heard this, they were amazed. So they left him and went away.

That same day the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to him with a question.

“Teacher,” they said, “Moses told us that if a man dies without having children, his brother must marry the widow and raise up offspring for him. Now there were seven brothers among us. The first one married and died, and since he had no children, he left his wife to his brother. The same thing happened to the second and third brother, right on down to the seventh. Finally, the woman died. Now then, at the resurrection, whose wife will she be of the seven, since all of them were married to her?”

Jesus replied, “You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God. At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven. But about the resurrection of the dead—have you not read what God said to you, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not the God of the dead but of the living.”

When the crowds heard this, they were astonished at his teaching. Matthew 22:15-33

“Nothing is certain, but death and taxes,” so the old saying goes. I wonder if that quote got its start in this verse. The Pharisees challenged Jesus on his view of taxes, while the Sadducees went after him on death and resurrection. In general, these are things we all think about at times.

The political climate of the day was not in favor of paying taxes to the Roman government. In fact, Jews who collected taxes for the Romans viewed as among the worst of sinners in many people’s opinions.

If the Pharisees could get Jesus to advocate paying taxes, they could turn the crowd against Him. If they could get Him to rebel against Roman taxation, then they had Him there too. But, Jesus was no ordinary human. He knew what they were thinking.

Jesus’ answer is simple and poetic: “If it belongs to Caesar, give it to Caesar. If it belongs to God, give it to God.” It’s the perfect answer.

Then the Sadducess, who didn’t actually believe in the resurrection of the dead, challenged Jesus on a hypothetical about the resurrection. How dumb did they think He was?

Again, Jesus gives a simple and direct answer: nobody is married in Heaven. The point was moot. End of discussion.

The Pharisees and Sadducees weren’t looking for the truth. They were looking for a fight. Jesus knew better than to even go there.

Is there someone in your life who will say and do things just to get you worked up? They aren’t happy until they get a rise out of you. If they can make you angry, then they know they can control you.

How do you deal with a person who just seems against you? Looking at Jesus example, we start with kindness. Jesus didn’t avoid them. He responded in a kind way.

But, the other thing we learn from Jesus is not to play their game. While we may not have the perfect thing to say in every situation, we can choose just not to go there. It’s not worth it.

Who do you dread being around? What relationships are difficult for you? Invite God into that conversation, not in a public or dramatic way, but in a whispered prayer. Let God direct the situation and say as little as possible.

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